The aftermath of last week’s public break-up between Ray Allen and the Celtics taught Boston sports lovers that loyalty between a team and a star must go both ways to last.
The usually gregarious Dominican has soured on his situation in Boston this year, even in the midst of one of his most productive campaigns ever. He’s pounded his way to a .312 batting average with 22 home runs and 57 RBI at the All-Star Break—and oh, by the way, he’s the only Sox player making the trip to Kansas City.
Which is why it’s tough to blame him for griping about Ben Cherington's refusal to negotiate a multi-year deal with the slugger coming off a one-year team option in 2011, when he hit .309 with 29 round-trippers and 96 RBI.
Instead, he agreed to arbitration with the club before settling on a single year contract worth $14.575 million. That’s not pocket change to be sure, but it’s far from a vote of confidence in the 10-year Red Sox veteran, one who has voiced his frustration several times already this season.
The most recent comments, made to USA Today Sports just hours before belting career home run no. 400 in Oakland, paint an ugly picture. Ortiz called his contract situation “humiliating” and “embarrassing”, and promised that next offseason his negotiating stance would change:
“My mentality is not going to be, ‘I like it here.’ It’s going to be, ‘Bring it to the table, and we’ll see what happens.’”
That’s bad news for a Red Sox front office that seems to have taken Ortiz’ consistent production for granted while backing up the Brinks truck for the likes of John Lackey (five years, $82 million, 5.26 ERA as a Red Sox), and Carl Crawford (seven years, $142 million, .255 batting average in 2011).
Ortiz, who lost 30 pounds over the offseason, should garner considerable interest on the open market even at his advanced age. His numbers have been on an upward trajectory since a tough 2009, when he hit only .212 with six homers against left-handed pitching. Compare that with this year’s .308, with nine bombs already.
Ortiz’ 1.013 OPS ranks second behind only Josh Hamilton’s in the AL, and Big Papi is in the top 10 in batting average, on-base percentage, hits, runs, home runs, doubles, and RBI.
To be concise, he’s been far and away the most valuable Red Sox player this year.
But when he’s playing this angry, it’s not only bad for opposing pitchers—it’s also a disaster in the making for the Sox.
Here’s hoping it's not too late to make Papi feel wanted at Fenway.